We read, watch and listen to the news constantly. His father works in the industry and I need to keep an eye on it for work, so information about the world is always in our home.
We could have tried to shield our son from it, but it was nearly impossible. We chose instead to expose him to it and be there for him if he had any questions or concerns.
One night, after watching a story on the cost of immunisation and how it was too expensive for some people, our son pipes up and utters “I think if you are poor and very sick you should get medicine for free no matter what”.
It was his first political comment. He was six years old.
I often worry that I may have exposed him to the problems of this world too early. There are times I see things hit his heart and when his eyes seem distant and sad. Gone are the days of crying and cuddles. He now tries to lock his emotions away and doesn’t share readily. Trying to get his thoughts on things is difficult. They drop like gold dust when you least expect it.
Christmas is around the corner. A time when the world goes mad with conspicuous consumption. It’s all about the gifts under the tree. About the latest, newest, shiniest toy.
There once was a time it meant more than that. When it was a celebration of hope and love. A time full of promise to a broken world.
A couple of Christmases ago I took our boy to a church in Redfern — another difficult, poverty-stricken suburb in Sydney. The church opened their doors to the local community with a Christmas feast. The homeless gathered with church members and they shared a meal together.
Our boy couldn’t eat a bite.
“I don’t want to take their food, mum. They won’t have enough to eat,” he whispered.
I had to reassure him there was plenty that day. I told him they would love to share a meal with him and spend time enjoying his company.
“Mum, let’s go home.”
“Is it too sad?”
He nodded. We made our goodbyes shortly after and came home.
I wonder if I should have forced him to stick it out. Tried harder to help him think outside his own discomfort and focus on the people enjoying the event. But he looked like he was about to burst into tears.
I guess he was too young to see the hope in that church that day — to see past the obvious poverty to the reason for the feast.
There, laughing among the parishioners, were people who had struggled all year to make ends meet. There were people who looked like they slept rough on the streets. People who polite company may want to avoid.
Yet there they were at church. They were there because of the free food, the free Christmas hampers and the people who welcomed them. And many, for a brief moment, forgot their troubles and enjoyed the day.
Two years on, our son has grown. He has matured and will start high school next year.
I asked him a few weeks ago if he’d be interested in helping out at that church again at Christmas.
“Sure,” he says. “Okay.”